Opening statement:?I'd like to say how proud of our players I am for how they handled themselves against San Diego State. It was a gutsy performance and they hung in there for 60 minutes and found a way to win. I can't say enough about their effort and mentality to stop a two-game skid with a big win and give us momentum coming into this week.
We are saying goodbye to 18 seniors on Saturday. This senior class is the winningest senior class in Utah football history. They have been great leaders for us on and off the field, and they are a terrific group to be around. We're going to miss those guys. This is their last opportunity to play together at Rice-Eccles Stadium in front of the home crowd.
We're looking forward to the game this week. There are no conference championship implications or anything of that nature, but it's still rivalry week and it will be an intense game - what we expect as always. Our guys are excited about the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd and line up and play in this game again. It's always a great game. The last 10-15 years have been very competitive. We're looking forward to it.
Injury report:?Sealver Siliga banged his shin in practice last week. We thought he would be able to play but he couldn't push off. We expect to have him back. Brad Clifford will be back, Junior Tui'one is probable, Wykie Freeman is out and Trevor Reilly is doubtful for this week with an ankle sprain.
On having to come back against SDSU:?It was a situation where they never doubted themselves and kept believing. They showed a great deal of resiliency. We had talked about handling adversity within a game, and we had not done a good job the previous two weeks of handling that. It was a topic of discussion last week. The guys took that to heart and responded as we hoped they would.
On the mood of the team:
The win was a big boost to their mood. They hadn't lost two games in a row in three years. They are very unfamiliar with that. To get back on track is huge. To go into the last game on a three-game skid would have been a big downer.
On the rivalry with BYU:?I think it ratcheted up 10-15 years ago and then leveled off. There is not much difference for the last 8-10 years, but if you look back 20 years, it is much more intense now than it was back then with the advent of the internet and different mediums out there to promote it.
Historically there have been stretches where it's been lopsided, but the last 15-20 years it's been very competitive.
On BYU's improvement:?They are running the ball effectively. If they have a run game, everything else seems to fall into place. The quarterback has gotten better each week. You can see the maturation process of Jake Heaps through the last few weeks. They have a solid defense - a good defense - and good special teams. As every program hopes to do, throughout the year you want to get better each week and they've done that.
On the future differences between the schools and how it affects the game: That remains to be seen. It's uncharted territory. The time slot is the biggest difference more than conference affiliation. There will always be the proximity between the schools. The feel of the game has always been a buildup through the whole season to that game. That's the biggest dynamic.
On the BYU rushing attack:?BYU has not been a running team for a long time. It's not a bad thing, just that a passing attack has typically been their strong suit.
Our run defense is 10th in the country. It's one of our strong suits. It should be an interesting matchup.
On Jake Heaps:?He appears to be much more confident. With any true freshman, there's going to be a learning curve. He's settled in and feels more comfortable. Physically, he has a lot of ability, good size, a quick release and a strong arm, but Division I football is a big step up and that was a natural learning curve. The most visible thing on tape is the pocket presence and feeling more comfortable in the system.
Kyle Whittingham Weekly Press Conference
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